United States Naval Research Laboratory

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Bust of Thomas Edison at the front gate of the Naval Research Laboratory.

The United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is the corporate research laboratory for the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps and conducts a broad program of scientific research and advanced development. NRL has existed since 1923, when it opened at the instigation of Thomas Edison. In a May 1915 editorial piece in the New York Times Magazine, Edison wrote; "The Government should maintain a great research laboratory.... In this could be developed...all the technique of military and naval progression without any vast expense." In 1946, upon the establishment of the Office of Naval Research, NRL was placed under the direction of the Chief of Naval Research.

Naval Research Laboratory complex on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.

NRL's accomplishments range from the development of gamma-ray radiography and radar to the Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph Experiment (LASCO) and Dragon Eye, a robotic airborne sensor system. The laboratory first proposed a nuclear submarine in 1939, and developed over-the-horizon radar in the late 1950s. The details of Grab I, deployed by NRL as the nation's first intelligence satellite, were recently declassified. The laboratory is responsible for the identification, friend or foe (IFF) system. In 1985, two scientists at the laboratory, Herbert A. Hauptman and Jerome Karle, won the Nobel Prize for work in molecular structure analysis. The projects developed by the laboratory often become mainstream applications without public awareness of the developer; an example in computer science is onion routing. The Timation system, developed at NRL, provided the basis for the Global Positioning System [1].

A few of the laboratory's many current specialties include plasma physics, space physics, materials science, and tactical electronic warfare.

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